A photo of a World War II veteran from Missouri that shows him kneeling on the ground to mark solidarity with National Football League (NFL) players has gone viral on Twitter after it was posted Sunday in response to President Donald Trump’s remark against the NFL players for protesting during the national anthem.
John Middlemas, 97, can be seen in the viral photo that was posted by his grandson Brennan Gilmore. The tweet had received over 97,915 retweets and 249,993 likes at the time of publishing this article. Gilmore quoted his grandfather in the caption and wrote: “Those kids have every right to protest.”
“My Grandpa has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years,” Gilmore said in a follow-up tweet. “He’s an amazing man always on the side of justice.”
The picture was posted at about 9:30 a.m. EDT Sunday morning, a few hours before scores of NFL players knelt or locked arms while the national anthem was played before an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. The players appeared to take a cue from former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had done the same last year to protest the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality.
The reactions came two days after the president made his initial remarks against the NFL players at a rally for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Alabama) Friday night. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president had said.
In an interview with the Springfield News-Leader, Middlemas said he wanted to give a message of peace and acceptance. He also said the desire in him to be inclusive stemmed after serving with black members of the military while deployed on a submarine. “I’m trying to say that you have to love everybody,” he said, adding he hoped “the whole world” would get his message. “We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”
Middlemas, who is presently working as a farmer, also openly criticized Trump, calling him “garbage-mouthed,” the News-Leader reported. “I wanted to communicate what I always told my grand-kids and everybody else. When they’d go to bed at night, we’d tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus,” he added.
According to the report, he also participated in a Springfield event called the “Unity March” to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 2013. He told the publication at the time that it was “the most important march I’ve ever made in my life.”
The World War II veteran had hoped King would be the president and said he regretted that King never fulfilled that dream.”Yes, I have loved him,” Middlemas said.
Meanwhile, the picture took Twitter by storm and many users were overwhelmed to see the war veteran kneeling. “Your grandfather is a REAL patriot; I thank him for his service. A real American, unlike the crazy orange guy!” a social media user tweeted.
Many other people also came out in support of the NFL players. Responding to the gesture, musician Stevie Wonder took a knee Saturday night “for America” at the 6th annual Global Citizen Music Fest in New York’s Central Park. Many other celebrities including comedians Conan O’Brien and Ellen DeGeneres also expressed solidarity on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Trump, on Sunday night, resumed his attack on the NFL players protesting during the national anthem.